Robert John Downey Jr. was born on April 4, 1965 in Manhattan, New York City to Robert Downey Sr. and Elsie (née Ford). His father was an actor and filmmaker while his mother was an actress. Downey Jr. has one older sister named Allyson.
As a child, Downey Jr. was surrounded by drugs as his father, a drug addict, exposed him to substances like marijuana at age six. This early exposure to drugs had a lasting impact on Downey Jr., laying the foundation for his struggles with substance abuse later in life. However, his childhood was not without joy – he lived in a creative environment and spent a lot of his time on film sets with his parents.
Education and Early Career
Downey Jr. attended Santa Monica High School but dropped out in 1982 at age 17 to become a full-time actor. He moved to New York City to pursue an acting career on the stage and screen.
In 1985, at age 20, Downey Jr. joined the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL), becoming the youngest cast member in the show’s history. However, his SNL stint lasted only one season as his edgy, unconventional humor and risky behavior did not sit well with the show’s producers.
Downey Jr.’s film debut came in 1987 with a small role in Baby, It’s You, followed by Weird Science and Back to School. His first lead role came in The Pick-up Artist in 1987, followed by a career-making performance in Less Than Zero (1987), where he played Julian Wells, a drug addict from a wealthy family.
Critical Acclaim in Chaplin & Substance Abuse Issues
Downey Jr.’s critically praised lead performance in the 1992 Chaplin biopic, Chaplin, earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. With this film, he became a renowned star in Hollywood.
However, Downey Jr.’s rising fame coincided with the start of his struggles with drug abuse and arrests – he was first arrested in 1996 for drug possession and was frequently in trouble with the law for substance abuse issues in the late 1990s, leading to multiple arrests and drug treatment facilities.
Career Decline & Comeback
As a result of his substance abuse and legal problems, Downey Jr. became virtually unhirable in Hollywood in the early 2000s. Most insurers balked at his high premiums and the prospect of making a film with the star, famous as much for being in trouble as for his talent.
However, in the mid-2000s, Downey Jr. saw a resurgence in his career. He is credited with an amazing comeback in the entertainment industry due to his determination and exceptional talent.
The 2003 film Gothika gave Downey Jr. a chance to restart his career. His performance was praised and signaled to filmmakers that he was prepared to work.
Amazing Success with Iron Man & Future Films
Downey Jr.’s casting as Tony Stark, the lead character in the 2008 blockbuster Iron Man, catapulted his career to even greater heights and reestablished him as a major star. He reprised this iconic role in various Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films over the next decade.
Some of his notable films during this extremely successful period include:
Iron Man sequels like Iron Man 2 (2010) and Iron Man 3 (2013)
The Avengers franchise – The Avengers (2012), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Sherlock Holmes (2009) and its sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Tropic Thunder (2008), which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor
Due Date (2010)
The Judge (2014)
With his professional life reaching new heights of success, Downey Jr. finally achieved an extended period of sobriety and stability in his personal life too. He credits his family, therapy, meditation, yoga and the practice of Wing Chun kung fu in helping him overcome substance abuse.
Downey Jr. married actress and singer Deborah Falconer in 1992, but their relationship ended in 2004 due to his drug abuse issues. They have a son together named Indio.
He later met producer Susan Levin in 2003 on the set of Gothika. Downey Jr. married Susan in August 2005. They have a daughter, Avri Roel (b. 2014) and a son, Exton Elias (b. 2012). The family lives together in California.
In his free time, Downey Jr. is involved in many ventures – he is an avid photographer, enjoys music, and has his own production company named Team Downey which develops and produces films, TV shows and VR projects.
Overall, despite extreme career ups and downs due to substance abuse, Robert Downey Jr. made an unforeseen and remarkable comeback to achieve tremendous success as an actor and film producer in contemporary Hollywood cinema. His charisma, versatility and exceptional talent have made him one of the most bankable stars worldwide.
Filmography Over the Years
Robert Downey Jr. has appeared in over 75 films since his start as an actor in the 1980s. Here is a selection of his most notable movies along with brief descriptions:
|Less Than Zero
|Breakout lead role as a drug addict from an affluent family
|Critically praised portrayal of Charlie Chaplin; earned Academy Award nomination
|Blockbuster superhero film; launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe and his comeback
|Supporting role earned Academy Award nomination
|Played the titular detective; first of the lucrative Sherlock Holmes film series
|Iron Man 2
|Reprised his iconic role of Tony Stark/Iron Man
|Comedy film with co-star Zach Galifianakis
|Ensemble superhero film; one of top-grossing movies of all time
|Iron Man 3
|Continued the successful Iron Man franchise
|Drama film; produced by Team Downey production company
|Avengers: Age of Ultron
|Second installment in the successful The Avengers series
|Avengers: Infinity War
|Among world’s highest-grossing films to date
|Currently 2nd highest-grossing film; wraps up over 10 years of MCU films
|Fantasy-comedy film starring Downey Jr. as Doctor Dolittle
Over his 35+ year acting career, Downey Jr. has shown exceptional range with diverse roles in blockbuster superhero movies as well as hard-hitting dramas. His films have grossed over $14.4 billion worldwide to date.
In summary, Robert Downey Jr. has led an eventful life both personally and professionally. He started acting from a very young age, achieving early success with acclaimed performances. However, his rapidly rising fame brought notoriety due to substance abuse troubles and repeated arrests in the late 1990s – a difficult period which nearly destroyed his career.
After a number of challenging years, Downey Jr. made an incredible Hollywood comeback through his determination and raw talent. His role as Tony Stark in Iron Man truly relaunched his career into blockbuster success. He delivered consistently compelling performances as this iconic Marvel superhero in various films over a decade. Today, Downey Jr. remains one of the most respected and bankable actors in the global entertainment industry with an astounding filmography full of popular movies grossing over $14 billion worldwide.
Off-screen, after overcoming substance abuse issues, he has found stability in his personal life too. He credits his family and practices like meditation and yoga in helping him deal with past trauma and struggles.
Without a doubt, Downey Jr.’s story reflects an extraordinary journey of stellar heights, harrowing setbacks and ultimately an amazing career and personal redemption fuelled by resilience and virtuosity in acting. Going forward in his 50s now, fans hope Robert Downey Jr. continues to entertain global audiences with the same flair through many more compelling roles in future.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions on Robert Downey Jr.’s life and career:
Where was Robert Downey Jr. born?
Robert Downey Jr. was born on April 4, 1965 in Manhattan, New York City to Robert Downey Sr. and Elsie (née Ford) who were both actors.
How many films has Robert Downey Jr. acted in?
Robert Downey Jr. has appeared in over 75 films spanning different genres like action, fantasy, comedy, drama etc. Some of his most well-known films are Chaplin, Less Than Zero, Iron Man series, The Avengers franchise, Sherlock Holmes series, and many more.
For which film did Robert Downey Jr. get his first Oscar nomination?
Robert Downey Jr. received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in the 1992 film Chaplin. The film was a critical and commercial success, earning Downey Jr. significant praise for his performance.
How much are Robert Downey Jr.’s films worth at the box office?
According to available data, the total worldwide box office gross of Robert Downey Jr.’s films add up to over $14.4 billion to date. This includes lucrative movie franchises like Iron Man films, The Avengers series, and Sherlock Holmes series.
What was Robert Downey Jr.’s breakthrough role?
Robert Downey Jr.’s breakthrough lead performance is considered to be his role as Julian Wells in the 1987 film Less Than Zero, where he played a wealthy drug addict from Los Angeles. The role demonstrated his exceptional talent and set him on the path to stardom.
Why was Robert Downey Jr. out of work in Hollywood in early 2000s?
Robert Downey Jr. had become virtually unhireable in Hollywood in the early 2000s due to his arrests for drug possession, spendings in prison and drug rehabilitation facilities. Insurance companies considered him a liability due to his past substance abuse troubles.
How did Robert Downey Jr. turn his career around?
Robert Downey Jr.’s determination to restart his career with his performance in Gothika (2003) signaled to producers that he was prepared to work. His casting as Tony Stark in Iron Man (2008) cemented his amazing comeback in Hollywood after years of difficulty due to substance abuse.
Who is Robert Downey Jr. married to?
Robert Downey Jr. has been married twice. His first wife was actress and singer Deborah Falconer whom he married in 1992 before divorcing in 2004. He married film producer Susan Levin in 2005 – they have two children together, and their family resides in California.